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Why Apply for Scholarships

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: March 21, 2021

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As we go into spring break, this is a great time for students to apply for scholarships. Recently a parent asked me why she and her teen should look for scholarships. She said that another college expert had told her that most financial aid would come from the colleges directly. 

This is a great question and one that I get all of the time. At one point, I was a counselor who advised families to focus on the merit scholarships and grants they’d get offered from colleges. But unfortunately, as time has passed and competition for top colleges has increased, the number of merit scholarship offers has declined. Most elite universities, like Harvard and Yale, do no offer merit scholarships. And more colleges like, Tulane University, are reducing merit scholarships in lieu of need-based funding to increase diversity. Other schools like Northeastern University tell families that they must be in the top 10-15% to be considered for merit scholarships. FAFSA is changing its process to shift away from the Expected Family Contribution, which has misled families to believe colleges would cover up to that amount of money for the cost of attendance.

Why apply for scholarships?

With all of these changes, one thing is clear: students and families are expected to take more responsibility for college costs. If tuition increases 5 to 7% every year — for the average middle-income family, paying $160K to $200K for college is unrealistic and overly expensive. What do you do when you’re looking at figures like these as you plan for college?

A great resource to consider is private scholarships. Private scholarships are free money given by independent entities, such as businesses, accounting firms, law firms, credit unions, community groups, and religious institutions. I do not recommend you center your search on national scholarship competitions. Those are extremely hard to find ones you qualify for and are even more challenging to win. Also, some may read as scams and may very well be ploys to collect your information. When I am talking about scholarships, I encourage you to look at scholarships in your city, county, and state. Scholarships there are easy to win but harder to find and require a bit of work on your end. More about that later when you download the Scholarship Starter Pack.

This is why making private scholarships as part of your paying for college plan is important and necessary. In this post, I will go over the three reasons you should apply for scholarships.

Apply for scholarships to cover more costs

In terms of what they offer in merit scholarships, colleges will get you 50% of the way to educational costs being covered if you have no financial need. This is the best scenario where you are a highly desired student. Colleges have the way they calculate your merit award down to a science, and they couple this with policies to ensure funding goes to their top incoming students. With FAFSA being redesigned for 2023, there is an argument that colleges can leave more financial responsibility on students and families. What this means is that college costs will continue to increase, and college-directed aid will decrease.

Scholarships replace student loan debt

There is a widespread student loan crisis in this country. The average student graduates with $35,000 in student loan debt. Those who continue to graduate school can expect an average of $75,000 in student loan debt. Some students are leaving with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. This type of debt is scary because it really delays how quickly a young person can start their life. Students who have massive student loan debt can’t pursue things like purchasing a home, going on vacations, or taking career risks because they have to work 9-5 jobs to pay back those student loans.

Scholarships are free money that does not have to be paid back. The more scholarships you win, the fewer student loans you have to take out. Therefore, there is a direct connection between the number you win and the freedom you’ll have in the future.

This is not something to think about during the senior year. If you’re reading this as a 9th, 10th, or 11th-grade student, then you’re in a great place to use scholarships to minimize your student loans to no amount greater than the $5,500 federal student loan amount schools typically offer.

Scholarships attract money

There is a widespread student loan crisis in this country. The average student graduates with $35,000 in student loan debt. Those who continue to graduate school can expect an average of $75,000 in student loan debt. Some students are leaving with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. This type of debt is scary because it really delays how quickly a young person can start their life. Students who have massive student loan debt can’t pursue things like purchasing a home, going on vacations, or taking career risks because they have to work 9-5 jobs to pay back those student loans.

Scholarships are free money that does not have to be paid back. The more you apply for scholarships and the more you win, the fewer student loans you have to take out. Therefore, there is a direct connection between the number you win and the freedom you’ll have in the future.

This is not something to think about during the senior year. If you’re reading this as a 9th, 10th, or 11th-grade student, then you’re in a great place to use scholarships to minimize your student loans to no amount greater than the $5,500 federal student loan amount schools typically offer.

Conclusion & next steps

The good news is that there are over $XB in scholarships awarded to students in the United States. The bad news is that the process is confusing and riddled with scams and confusion. I’m here to help make it easy for you to find the money for college. 

Start with the Scholarship Starter Pack. The scholarships is a plug-and-play scholarship workbook that includes templates and samples for all parts of the process. No matter what grade you are in, it’s never too early to start looking for scholarships. Students I’m working with, on average, are getting anywhere between $9,000 and $10,000 in scholarships, and they’re not even working that hard for it, they’re just looking in the right places.  Download the starter pack here.

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Bethany Goldszer is top college admissions and financial aid expert. She's been featured in HuffPost, USA Today, Newsday, Queens Gazette, and Official Black Wall Street & voted Best of Long Island. Faced with the overwhelming stress of applying, getting admitted to and financing her University of Chicago education, she started Stand Out College Prep LLC in 2012 so that no student or parent would have to go through this process alone. Over the last 15 years, Bethany has worked with over 1,500 students, helping them and their parents get into their top choice colleges and secure more than $20M in financial aid and scholarships. And each year, she continues to help more students stand out in the college admissions process and their parents navigate financial aid and scholarships.